Ranking the Best 5,000m Male Olympic Athletes of All Time
The men’s 5,000m race has been part of the athletic schedule in the Olympic Games since 1912. In the last century, there have been several names that have stood out from the crowd on the track.
The 5,000m event is no mean feat. With a brace of qualifying heats followed by a 15-athlete final, it takes a lot of heart and talent to stand up and be counted. However, there is a select club of male long-distance runners that have enjoyed prolonged success in this Olympic event and we’re here to celebrate them.
The flying Finn Lasse Virén became the first long-distance Olympic runner to win two gold medals in the 5,000m event. In fact, at the 1972 Games in Munich, Virén would stun the sporting world by winning both the 5,000m and 10,000m Olympic gold. In the 10,000m final, Virén fell on lap 12 and still managed to recover and post a new world record time.
Virén returned for the 1976 Games in Montreal and was just as dynamic. He landed his second gold medal at 5,000m, fending off challenges from multiple world-class middle and long-distance runners like Rod Dixon, Brendan Foster, and Dick Quax to lead from the front and win with plenty to spare. Virén followed that up with another stunning race to win the 10,000m gold. He didn’t compete in the 1980 Games at 5,000m but finished fourth in the 10,000m. The Finn is regarded as a true Olympic icon.
Sir Mo Farah
Mo Farah lit up both the 2012 London and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games with gold medals in the 5,000m, cementing him in folklore as the most successful gold medallist in this event, sharing that accolade with Viren. It’s worth noting that Farah was also the world champion at the 5,000m distance in 2011, 2013 and 2015. He even bagged a silver at the 2017 World Championships in London. He has always been regarded as a fierce competitor with a tough training schedule and a heart of gold.
It’s still 12 months until the next Olympic Games in the French capital of Paris, so most of the leading sports betting operators haven’t yet prepared their 2024 Olympic Games markets. Nearer the time, it’ll be possible to comb through the various markets, which typically allow users to back a runner to reach the final, land a medal or win a gold outright. Unfortunately for Farah’s fans, the four-time Olympic gold medallist won’t be listed in next year’s markets for the 5,000m event. The 40-year-old confirmed his retirement after the 2023 London Marathon, with recent performances falling well below his usual high standards.
Kenyan star Eliud Kipchoge is considered the finest marathon runner in history, but he was also a dab hand at the 5,000m too. The 2016 and 2020 Olympic marathon gold medallist was also a world champion over 5,000m in 2003, following that up with a bronze medal in the 5,000m at the 2004 Games in Athens. Four years later, Kipchoge came within a whisker of Olympic gold in the 5,000m in Beijing, before having to settle for silver.
In total, Kipchoge reached the 5,000m World Championship finals on no less than five occasions. The Kenyan’s best-ever 5,000m time was posted in 2004, coming in at 12:46:53.
Ones to watch
Keep your eyes peeled for Ugandan sensation Joshua Cheptegei. The 26-year-old has the world at his feet right now. In August 2020, Cheptegei smashed the world record time for a men’s 5,000-metre race, breaking the previous record set by Kenya’s Kenenisa Bekele by almost two minutes at the Stade Louis II stadium in Monaco.
Cheptegei will go into Paris 2024 as the reigning Olympic champion in the 5,000m event. He was also a silver medallist in the 10,000m event. Ugandan athletics is experiencing a glut of superstar runners right now, with Cheptegei’s compatriot Jacob Kiplimo also improving fast. Kiplimo bagged the gold medal in both the 5,000m and 10,000m events at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which puts him firmly on the radar for Paris 2024.